Spiral Dive: war story flies on strong performances

Spiral Dive: clearly not one of the planes used in the production

“Do you want to be a nice guy piece of meat, or do you want to be an assassin?”

So goes Canadian pilot Jack Harding’s pilot training in Spitfire, a well written three hander that explores the life of a small town Canadian boy who signs up in World War II. The narrator is already a ghost; we learn his fate at the beginning. He went into the navy, and died sea sick and without heroic details, unlike the enviable fighter pilots. We follow Jack from Canada to a not so appealing corner of England where he trains as a pilot (“No wonder Shakespeare wrote about witches and bogs”).

Midst his training, Jack meets and falls for a beautiful and mysterious Polish refugee, who eventually fills him in on a few details of her tragic existence, starting with playing a Mendelssohn record, pointing out that the music was banned in Poland. All her family is dead, and she asks  Jack to “come to bed and then kill Germans for me.” She says simply that she wants him to “make their mothers weep”.

Spitfire is an interesting play devoid of sentiment, and the actors give great performances. I have one criticism; the use of model planes to mirror Jack’s flying experiences. When a model plane is used at the beginning to enhance the telling of Jack’s first view of a plane, I found it distracting. However, when they are used to demonstrate battles later in the play, I enjoyed two actors working in tangent as they held the planes aloft. Somehow when it was “piloted” by just one actor, it took my focus away, but with the two working together it felt like a purposeful dance.

This period piece is one of the longer Fringe shows at 75 minutes, but it moves swiftly and certainly kept the wrapped attention of the 100 or so audience members on the Sunday afternoon performance I attended.

For more information dive bomb this way and also join in the public debate.

By Cathy Sostad